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October 18th 2016

Language obligations of professional associations

Fredericton, October 18, 2016 – As of July 1, 2016, over 40 associations that regulate a profession in New Brunswick must provide their services in English and in French. A new factsheet by the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages describes the language rights of people who communicate with these associations. 

“Professional associations play a fundamental role: they protect the public by regulating and supervising the exercise of professions”, said Official Languages Commissioner Katherine d’Entremont. “In a province with two official linguistic communities, professional associations must carry out this role in both official languages. That is why members of the Legislative Assembly decided to subject professional associations to the Official Languages Act.”

The factsheet indicates that association members and the public have the right to communicate with professional associations and to receive services in the official language of their choice. Examples of services provided by professional associations are presented in the factsheet. The document also specifies that associations must inform their members and the public that their services are available in both languages (commonly referred to as the active offer of service).In addition, a person cannot be placed at a disadvantage because he or she chooses one official language rather than the other to satisfy a requirement of a professional association, such as writing an exam.

The factsheet lists 43 professional associations that have language obligations under the Act. These include the New Brunswick Real Estate Association, the Association of New Brunswick Land Surveyors, the New Brunswick College of Dental Hygienists, the Law Society of New Brunswick as well as the College of Physicians and Surgeons of New Brunswick.

The language obligations of professional associations stem from changes to the Official Languages Act adopted by the Members of the Legislative Assembly in 2013 and 2015, which came into effect this past July. Professional associations therefore had a three-year transition period to prepare for their new language obligations.

With the language obligations of professional associations coming into force on July 1st, 2016, the Commissioner’s mandate was expanded to include oversight of these professional associations. "Anyone who believes that their language rights have not been respected by a body to which the Official Languages Act applies is invited to contact us," d’Entremont continued. "Our investigations and recommendations help institutions improve their services in both official languages." 

The factsheet on professional associations is the sixth in a series on language rights in New Brunswick. Others on government services, health care, police services, justice, and municipal and regional services are also available on the Office of the Commissioner’s website, section My Rights. This initiative ties in with the Commissioner’s mandate to promote the advancement of both official languages. It also seeks to follow up on the 2013 Report of the Select Committee on the Revision of the Official Languages Act in which the Committee expressed hope that “the Commissioner would make greater efforts to improve public awareness of [her] role.”

For more information, please contact:
Hugues Beaulieu
Director of Public Affairs and Research
506-444-4229 or 1-888-651-6444
Hugues.Beaulieu@gnb.ca

About the Commissioner of Official Languages
The Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick is an independent officer of the Legislative Assembly. The Commissioner’s role is to protect the language rights of the members of the Anglophone and Francophone communities and to promote the advancement of both official languages.